• Operates its own network, covering 94% of the Australian population
• Australia's third largest carrier, behind Telstra and Optus
• 3G network operates on 2100Mhz and 900Mhz in some regional areas
Vodafone began operating in Australia in 1992 and is the third largest network after Telstra and Optus. With great value plans and unlimited calls to other Vodafone numbers on postpaid plans, this is a good choice for price-conscious consumers. Recent problems with call quality have prompted a $1bn overhaul of its network
• Cap plans include unlimited voice calls in Australia to other Vodafone or 3 customers
• 30-day guarantee on post-paid plans allows customers to cancel their contract if coverage is a problem
• International presence means roaming overseas can be cheaper than other carriers
• Coverage is not as comprehensive as Optus or Telstra
• Network issues in 2011 led to many customer complaints
Vodafone Group is the world's largest mobile telecommunications company by revenue, with a large presence in Europe, the US and the Middle East. Vodafone Group won the third mobile license in Australia in 1992.
In 2008, the company purchased mobile retail chain Crazy John's. In 2009, Vodafone and 3 mobile merged businesses in a 50:50 joint venture now branded as VHA, though it continues to operate in the marketplace as Vodafone.
In 2009, VHA enabled a 900MHz 3G UMTS network which operates alongside their 2100MHz 3G network. This took network coverage from around 8% to around 94% on dual-band 900/2100mhz 3G UMTS devices.
Towards the end of 2010, Vodafone had grown its customer base rapidly and its infrastructure was struggling to cope with the increasing demand for data services. As a result, many customers experienced patchy coverage, dropouts and slow 3G speeds. The problems were exacerbated by long waits for technical support and many customers registered complaints with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
The issue was acknowledged in several public statements and the company pledged to improve its service. In 2010, Vodafone announced it would roll out a new 850MHz network to operate alongside the existing 3G 2100MHz network. The 850MHz band is also the frequency used by Telstra for its Next G. According to Telstra, the lower frequency works better in more buildings, car parks and lifts compared to the 2100MHz network used by other carriers.
The carrier also invested in its customer service, employing an extra 300 operators in its Hobart and Mumbai call centres, cutting waiting times and introducing a self-service option.
Although Vodafone is the world's largest mobile telecommunications provider, its subscriber base in Australia is smaller than that of Telstra and Optus. With 6.72 million customers, compared to Telstra's 9.6 million and Optus' 9.23 million, the company has room to expand.
Future plans and development
Vodafone is investing $1bn to improve its network in Australia and plans to create 1500 new 850MHz sites and install upgraded equipment at 8,000 existing sites by mid 2012. The improvements will give Vodafone a "flexible upgrade path" to Long Term Evolution (LTE) network technology, the carrier has said.
Vodafone has also announced its intentions to become a fixed-line telecommunications provider over the National Broadband Network (NBN), consolidating and significantly expanding the group's presence in Australia. Expect to see them grow their customer base and become a bigger competitor to Telstra and Optus over the next few years.